Film review: Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore

I loved Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the first film in this Harry Potter spin-off series, but found its 2018 follow-up, The Crimes of Grindelwald, “devoid of magic”, said Brian Viner in the Daily Mail. Now a third film (of the five planned) is here, and though it’s “overlong”, it marks a “return to form” for the franchise. 

With the “excellent” Mads Mikkelsen replacing a disgraced Johnny Depp as the dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald, the movie confirms what was merely hinted at before: that he and his arch-enemy, Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law), were once lovers. The action, meanwhile, has moved from 1920s Paris to 1930s Berlin, where Grindelwald has become a “charismatic demagogue”. It is up to Dumbledore and his “magizoologist” protégé Newt (Eddie Redmayne, “a study in tousle-haired, lip-biting diffidence”) to thwart Grindelwald’s plans. The film has energy and wit in spades, but “you’ll need to have seen the first two” to keep up.

This is quietly radical stuff, said Kevin Maher in The Times: a studio blockbuster that “revolves around the emotional lives of two lovelorn gay men” (albeit without “hot snogs”). It hits all the right notes: there are lots of action set pieces, chases and some “thrilling wand-offs”; performances from the supporting cast are “tip-top”. 

I’m afraid I found it “less than wizard”, said Robbie Collin in The Daily Telegraph. It’s completely incoherent. Many sequences feel like “free-floating trailer fodder: surplus to plot requirements, but too expensive to cut”. There are some bits of Potter nostalgia shoved in to give the “bamboozled viewer something to cling to”. Such moments do provide some brief “jolts of delight” – but overall, “for these particular beasts, the glue factory beckons”.

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